As I write this entry, the time is moving dangerously close to midnight (by the time I finish, it will be much later). And every second passed brings me closer to being another year older. Or as one of my younger friends so kindly put it tonight, to being “not old, but ancient.” Thanks. Just as when driving down the interstate, I am approaching the “Now leaving 21” sign which is followed by the “Welcome to Almost Old Age” sign. Eek.

But as my wise younger sister Rascal so aptly said, “Age is but a number.” And that’s the case here. Heck, I’m 24 in Korea (they count differently). And if I were born on Leap Day, I would only be 5 years old. So it’s all relative, right? Right.

However, at least culturally speaking, birthdays are important. They signify the end—and beginning—of chapters in this wonderful little non-fiction book known as “life.” As such, I thought it would be beneficial to take a moment to pause and recognize respectfully my 21st year of life as it swiftly passes into memory. As I contemplated this post, I wondered about the best way to go about this. Should I write a narrative? That could take me until my next birthday to finish, and I know your attention span (nor mine) is that long. So, after much ado about nothing, I decided that a list would be the ideal method. So here it is: (drum roll, please)

Steffi’s Amazing, Wonderful, Fantastic (etc) 21 Life Lessons as a 21-Year-Old

(Not in any particular order)

1)      Ryan Air waits for no one. In fact, they kind of enjoy leaving people behind. So get to the airport with time to spare, even if that means taking an overpriced Slovakian taxi.

2)      Austria is not Germany. Germany is not Austria. Enough said.

3)      Nutella is addicting.

4)      Passports are important. Especially when going to Croatia from the EU.

5)      Euros are not Monopoly money. Don’t be fooled by their pretty colors or funny shapes.

6)      Ziploc baggies are one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.

7)      Sometimes hitchhiking is necessary. If possible, do so in Ireland.

8)      In absence of a bandaid, a sock and rubberband can serve the same function. Especially when one’s finger is bleeding profusely.

9)      Always email or call your parents. They like knowing that you’re alive. Crazy, I know.

10)   When in doubt, take a picture. Even if it’s inconvenient or seems annoying. It’s worth it.

11)   Oftentimes, things don’t turn out like you plan. But don’t stress; they usually turn out even better.

12)   Smiles are powerful.

13)   Korean food can be very spicy.

14)   Always carry tissues. You never know when toilet paper may be a privilege rather than a right. The same goes for hand sanitizer.

15)   Fifty-pound suitcases are heavy. And they become heavier when carried over long distances. And up multiple sets of stairs. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

16)   Chai tea lattes are like heaven in a cup. I’m not exaggerating.

17)   A good night’s sleep can make all the difference.

18)   You can’t do everything, but you can put your everything into what you do.

19)   It’s not what you’re doing or where you are; it’s who you’re with that matters.

20)   Adventures are best when shared.

And finally, the big 2-1….

21)   Life in meant to be lived. So live it. Every day. To the fullest.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? So basic, so natural, so intuitive. Like that’s the way we were made to live. But it’s so easy to fall into the trap of mediocrity, at least it is for me. I forget how exciting and awesome and wonderful this adventure called “life” truly is. I get stuck in ruts of frustration and potholes of discouragement. Yes, mood swings and emotions are part of the human experience, and we all have  them. But they are meant to be temporary rest stops on this road trip of life, not camping grounds. How do we break free of them?

Awhile back, someone told me that much of our lives has little to do with what actually happens, but rather how we think about things. Our attitudes and our thoughts are more powerful than we usually realize. Once we understand this, we can choose the way we think, and in turn, affect how we live our lives. Nifty, eh?

So my challenge to you (and to myself) is this: View life not as an obstacle, but as an adventure. Sure, adventures include their fair share of obstacles, but part of the fun comes with rising to meet those challenges and conquering them. Look for the positive, for the good things, because life is chock full of them; we usually just don’t take the time to notice. Be thankful. Tell people you care about them. Don’t leave things unsaid. Don’t just complain about things; change them. Live your life on purpose. And you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.

On one of my last days in Graz, I stumbled upon a bit of graffiti that stopped me in my tracks. (Of course I took a picture of it–See Lesson #10). It captured concisely and succinctly what I have been trying to say:

“Love Life. Live Love.”

That, my friends, is what God calls us to do. Love and enjoy the life He has given us, and to live out His love in everything we do. That’s my prayer for myself, as I embark on my 22nd year, and for you wherever you are. Embrace the adventure. And live.


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